We Want Your (Our) Water

It’s water war time once again — maybe. We’ve reported in the past 18 months on a number of state battles over water resources, while all the time emphasizing the need for a comprehensive Indiana plan to ensure long-term supplies for our citizens and businesses. It’s part of our Indiana Vision 2025 blueprint.

The West and South are the locale of many such skirmishes, but the latest comes from the middle of the country. Namely, it’s the Missouri River and Kansas wanting to “divert” some of the water to irrigate crops in the western part of its state.

Some details, courtesy of the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper:

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has asked Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to back off of a feasibility study of Kansas taking water from the Missouri River to divert to western Kansas.

“The Missouri River is a resource that is vital to Missouri’s way of life and our economy,” Nixon said in a letter to Brownback.

Describing the Missouri River as the “lifeblood” of numerous communities, Nixon said the river provides drinking water and is used to ship goods to markets.

“We have worked for many years, and fought many legal battles, to ensure the River is managed properly,” Nixon wrote. “Thoughtful and reasoned discussion and cooperation, rather than unilateral plans for massive diversions, must be the guiding forces in planning for the River’s use,” he urged.

Nixon’s letter to Brownback was in response to the Kansas Water Office’s plan to commission a study on a proposal to divert water from the Missouri River and transport that water through canals some 360 miles to irrigate crops in western Kansas.

The so-called Kansas Aqueduct Project has been on the shelf for decades, but has recently been re-emphasized by water officials in Kansas.

Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office, said the idea is to divert water at high flow or flood times on the Missouri River. That would help Kansas farmers and alleviate downstream flooding on the Missouri, he said. The water office is the state’s water agency, which conducts water planning and helps make state water policy.

But Nixon said while Missourians have suffered through flooding on the Missouri River, they have also depended on the river during droughts.

 

Look at Indiana Entrepreneurship Offers Mixed Signals

Cam Carter, our VP of small business and economic development, talks with Tom Schuman about the state of entrepreneurship in Indiana.

For more on recent developments on this topic, see these articles from the latest BizVoice magazine:

Indiana Works Council Up and Running

The goal: Building an education system that leads to workforce readiness.

Last Wednesday, state leaders took another step toward achieving that goal. Gov. Pence launched the Indiana Works Council in Vigo County as a result of the new law that creates regional works councils tasked with coordinating between education, job skills and career training.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Ready Indiana were fervent supporters of this legislation that brings together workforce development groups, employers and schools to evaluate and ensure that career and technical education opportunities for high school students address the workforce needs of the region.

"We need to make sure that our schools work just as well for our kids who want to get a job right away instead of getting a degree,” said Gov. Mike Pence.

Read the story from WTHI.

Mike Rowe Discusses the Skills Gap

Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" fame recently appeared on "Real Time with Bill Maher." Regardless of your opinion of Maher, listen to what Rowe has to say (although there is some blue language in the piece). It's a useful conversation in which Rowe asserts students are going into deep debt to go to college and study for jobs that don't exist. He basically outlines a more practical approach to education and job training by encouraging pursuit of vocational training and STEM degrees — and more closely matching workforce needs with educational efforts. That is something Hoosier legislators on both sides of the aisle stress these days — and so do we.

Rowe also has a web site at www.profoundlydisconnected.com. Also see www.indianaskills.com, part of the Chamber's Ready Indiana program, for statistics on jobs and skills that require less than a four-year degree.

Ready Indiana recently participated in a meeting including Gov. Mike Pence and German officials on the skills gap topic, as well.

Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar recently spoke with Inside INdiana Business about our Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card, which was unveiled this week. See the video. Additionally, here is a link to the report card itself, and below is a summary of the findings:

A snapshot of where Indiana ranks nationally in 60 key economic measurements was released today by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The report includes revealing outcomes both for areas in which Indiana is doing well – regulatory freedom and small business survival, for example – and where improvement needs to take place – such as post-secondary education attainment and the state’s poverty rate.

This report is the next step in Indiana Vision 2025, a comprehensive, multi-year initiative to provide leadership and a long-range economic development action plan for Indiana. It marks the start of the Indiana Chamber examining key metrics at two-year intervals through 2025, covering progress in four critical areas: Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure and a Dynamic and Creative Culture.

The overriding message, says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar, is that the state cannot afford to rest on recent laurels like the education reforms of 2011 and instituting a right-to-work law in 2012. "We can’t be fatigued by the effort or take a break on improving Indiana. Other states and countries are moving at a fast pace and we need to remain competitive in order to have a prosperous environment for our citizens."

And in areas where Indiana is currently lagging, change will not happen overnight, Brinegar cautions. "It will take a robust effort by like-minded groups to affect both policy and societal changes that impact these metrics. Significant advances by Indiana also can be undone through inattention, poor policy choices or the dramatic actions of other states and nations."

While passing good public policies, where appropriate, are one element of this larger picture, Brinegar asserts the key is implementation. “There has been no better example of that than education reforms. Too much time, money and effort has been spent the last two years on efforts to reverse 2011 achievements (school choice voucher program, charter school expansion) rather than ensuring these are implemented at the highest level to assist Hoosier students and families.

"Our No. 1 priority has to be investing in the education, knowledge and skills of Hoosiers. Our goal is to achieve prosperity and cultivate a world-class environment full of opportunities," he concludes.

When it comes to the report card’s specific ratings, the most progress has been made in building an Attractive Business Climate. Indiana is at the very top for the regulatory freedom index and in the top five of the small business survival index. (Separately, Indiana’s business climate was recently ranked fifth best nationally and best in the Midwest by Chief Executive magazine).

Indiana has also enjoyed advances regarding its Dynamic and Creative Culture – most notably jumping into the top 10 for business research and development.

Further work, however, is needed in producing Outstanding Talent. More Hoosiers attaining associate’s degrees and higher plus focusing on early education are among the keys. A disturbing placement is Indiana’s poverty rating. Indiana has gone from having the 12th lowest poverty rate in the nation in 2000, to 32nd in 2005 and now 35th in 2011.

"This illustrates the sad reality for some of our citizens and emphasizes why workforce training, sending children to pre-school, completing high school and beyond are so vital. Only when we put greater focus on these activities will we have a significant impact on moving people out of poverty," Brinegar surmises.

Meanwhile, Indiana’s Superior Infrastructure driver has been an advantage for the state, but the dynamic surrounding road funding and energy costs is changing. Case in point: Indiana is trending in the wrong direction for affordable electricity, dropping to 19th in 2011 (was 11th in 2000 and 12th in 2005).

A summary of Indiana’s top and bottom rankings, the biggest gains and drops, plus the goals established for each is available at www.indianachamber.com/2025. The report card, the Indiana Vision 2025 plan and additional information are also available at that site.

Writing is the Right Stuff for This Guy

I came to the Indiana Chamber slightly more than 15 years ago partially out of a desire to return to my writing roots. Newspaper reporting and other writing had evolved into managerial duties that primarily included editing and page layout (that's another story for another time).

The writing part started on Day 1 and has never really stopped. If variety is the spice of life, I can skip the spice aisle at the local grocery. Fifteen years of BizVoice magazine have delivered numerous story opportunities on subjects ranging from education and taxes to economic development and business success stories.

But we do a lot more at the Indiana Chamber, which involves many forms of writing. Some of the ongoing projects/initiatives that we're working on for our members and investors:

These are a few example of what keeps life interesting around here. Not to mention the scripts, presentations, press releases, fact sheets and other items that help achieve the Chamber mission.

Top Companies Rank Top Goals

Two of the many Indiana Chamber programs/initiatives that we are proud of are the Best Places to Work in Indiana program and our Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan.

We combined the two in a strictly unscientific survey, asking the Best Places applicants to prioritize five of the Indiana Vision 2025 goals. There are no right or wrong answers, of course, but it's interesting to see how these top organizations rank some of the strategies that will help move our state forward.

The five goals and the average rank (1 being most important, 5 least important):

  • Develop entrepreneurship and aggressively promote business start-ups through education, networking, investment and financial support: 2.3
  • Diversify Indiana's energy mix with an emphasis on clean coal, nuclear power and renewables: 4.2
  • Enact comprehensive local government refrom at the state and local levels to increase efficiency and effctiveness in delivery of services: 3.4
  • Increase to 90% the proportion of Indiana students who graduate from high school ready for college and/or career training: 2.1
  • Increase to 60% the proportion of Indiana residents with high quality postsecondary credentials: 3.0

Work is ongoing on all the Indiana Vision 2025 goals. The 2013 Best Places to Work program will culminate with the May 2 awards dinner. Rankings will be revealed at that event and BizVoice magazine will profile the 100 winners.

Check Out the Chamber’s Issue Pages

Do you have a topic you're passionate about, and would like to know what the Indiana Chamber is working on in that area? We've developed some web pages highlighting key issues that will show you what we're focused on and offer some background on our public policies. See the pages below, and more information will be added weekly to these as the session progresses.

http://www.indianachamber.com/education
http://www.indianachamber.com/tax
http://www.indianachamber.com/healthcare
http://www.indianachamber.com/econdev
http://www.indianachamber.com/labor
http://www.indianachamber.com/environment
http://www.indianachamber.com/localgov
http://www.indianachamber.com/federal

Our 2013 Top Legislative Priorities and Legislative Business Issues documents are also available to view.

Our People, Our Future: Why We “Stick Our Noses” in Education

The question came our way much more frequently in the past. The fact that it occasionally is still asked today is a true mystery.

The inquiry: Why is the Indiana Chamber of Commerce “sticking its nose in the middle of” education debates? The answer: Skilled workers, if it hasn’t always been this way, are the absolute number one factor in determining the success of our state’s companies, their employees and our communities.

Yes, many other factors come into play. Tax burdens, health care costs, moving people and products, having adequate and affordable natural resources, and encouraging entrepreneurs are a few of the other critical ingredients. But as Mitch Daniels, who just wrapped up eight years as governor, is fond of saying, Indiana has established a pretty good sandbox or toolkit.

All the sand in the desert or tools in the garage are not enough if people aren’t prepared to take advantage. Organizations of all types and sizes throughout the state (and country) will quickly tell anyone who listens that their employees are their greatest asset. When that human talent is not able to adapt, work in teams or learn new technologies, that critical asset can turn into a liability.

Many of you have likely heard me say or read in BizVoice that it’s no accident that Outstanding Talent is the top driver listed in the Indiana Vision 2025 plan. What does that mean? Indiana must excel at all levels of education and workforce training. We have to make sure Hoosiers – whether young students, those just beginning their careers or older employees – have the resources they need to be successful. We have to challenge the status quo. We have to demand improvement and accept innovation.

Any less would be a dramatic disservice. That is why the Indiana Chamber, and all of us, needs to be in the middle of the debate.